Armored Combat

Armored Combat (also called Heavy Weapons) as practiced in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Full contact and full speed using real armor and simulated weapons.
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Things that Should be Self-evident

Don't sleep with your squires.

It's good to be hard to hit. It's bad to be hard to kill. One is a demonstration of skill, the other is a failure of judgment.

Make sure you and your squires have the same sort of fealty relationship in mind before you take them. See this article.

All other things being equal, it is better if the witnesses to a tournament final bout are happy with the results. If a victory is greeted with silence from an attentive crowd, the winner should look carefully within his heart. Either the fight looked bad, the opponent had a home town advantage, or they don't have much to look forward to for the next year.

A tournament prize should be nice enough that the victor isn't ashamed to display it, but not so nice that contestants will be willing to shame themselves to get it.

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Thoughts on Squires and Squiring

Taking or becoming a squire should not be entered into lightly. Act in haste, repent at leisure.

When considering squirehood, make sure both parties understand the whole deal. Talk about every facet of the job and the relationship as each of you see it, so there are no surprises.

I was lucky in my squiring, that Sir TJ was a very easy-going knight who never had any surprises for me. Lucky because we did not discuss things as we should have, and there were several times I had to go to him and ask "Hey, is this the right idea? Is this OK?"

Well, my squires know exactly what I expect of them in every way I can think of before I ever take them. And the process of explaining all that ahead of time helps them get over any reluctance they may have to bring something to me after they've squired.

Here are actual examples of the things I cover with my potential squires:

  • belts - which, how many
  • other symbols of squiring - allowed?
  • the difference between a request and an order
  • when they must fight
  • Pennsic camp arrangements
  • heraldry, specifically household surcoats
  • men at arms
  • what I mean by "household"

Do you know your pontenial/current knight's/squire's answers to all those topics? If you're already in a household (or heading one!) then get them straight. If you're thinking of joining one or asking someone to join one, then get these clear. And of course, there are other topics just as important to cover.

All that said, it mostly doesn't matter what kind of household a peer builds. Only that everyone joining the household knew what they were in for before they joined. Do you want to be part of a group that runs with military discipline and organization? Fine. Prefer to find some guys who just want to wear matching surcoats and drink beer together? Okay. But imagine the problems that occur of someone expecting the latter joins the former.

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One Knight's Opinions

Plagiarized thoughts

If you're unable to make a clear decision about something, ask yourself "What is best for the kingdom?" --Earl Kane

Common sense is what tells you the world is flat.

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The short list of my problems with "Sword Foot Forward"

First off, you can read this link to get an extremely detailed understanding of my technical prejudices.Yes, it's very long. It should be.

The proof is in the pudding as they say, and I've personally never seen any pudding. Everyone I've ever seen win with sword leg forward has been big or strong or fast or thick, or some combination of these.
The point I'm trying to get to is that in my opinion, successful sword leg forward style requires big or strong or fast or thick, and among any population of heavy fighters, women are least likely to be any of the first three, and no one should aspire to the fourth.

If women's bodies aren't able to move the same way as men's when throwing a blow, then why do female batters, boxers and martial artists move the same way as their male counterparts?

I've never met a healthy woman who can't twist her hips roughly 90 degrees from a rest position to point onto the same line as her back foot. Anyone who can do that can generate enough force to throw a killing blow. However, standing with the sword foot forward pulls the hip around, effectively removing most of the large muscles of the body from the blow. In fact, sword foot forward stance begins at the place where the blow with greatest amount of power generation ends.

The most power anyone can generate in a blow starts with your sword foot back. By taking a big step forward with your sword foot, your hips and shoulders swing around toward the opponent and as your foot lands, your blow completes. But if your sword foot is already forward, there's nowhere for the power to come from.

Further, standing with the sword foot forward requires a much more active shield defense. By bringing the sword foot around, less of her body is protected by the shield so the the fighter cannot manage small blocks to cover those portions that are now targets. An active defense is more work. An active defense is harder than a mostly passive one.

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The Armored Rose Disassembled

There's quite a following in the female heavy fighting community for the style called the Armored Rose. Even some male fighters recommend it to women, and as I'll mention in more detail later, I know of a few men who, to my eye, seem to fight the style.

I'll use this web book to discuss why I think it is a bad idea to teach Armored Rose to women. I'm not going to address issues of psychology (though I am not alone in thinking that there are problems in that part of the Armored Rose book) nor will I address the depths of the medical physiology described in the book. I'm not a psychologist, nor a doctor.

But I have been fighting since 1986, I've been a knight since 1995, and I've trained an awful lot of people, including women. I also come from a kingdom where analysis of fighting technique is a well defined science. I mention this because I've seen very large differences in method, methodolgy, technique and terminology across the Known World. Some places don't seem to have any agreed-upon terminology for things like range, blows, or shield position. And unfortunately, some places where fighting happens don't seem to have any plan, method or style for training fighters. But more on that in another book.

This is a work in progress. Sections below may be nothing more than a sentence or two, serving to spur me to further elaboration.

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Thing One: Charge

Number 1: Charge

The simplest thing. You and your unit head directly for the enemy. The only trick is arriving together, and perhaps having to avoid being flanked on the way. This is easiest to teach, easiest to understand, hardest to mess up. It is the best choice when your unit has an advantage in shields or their unit has an advantage in long weapons like polearms and spears. If you have more big people than they do, it is also worthwhile to consider a charge.
The common errors in the charge are breaking up on the way, hitting the opponents in small groups rather than as a unit, and failing to charge hard enough to actually penetrate the opposing unit's front line. Practice a bit on having the front line guide to the first rank guy on the far right, who should be an experienced sword and shield fighter.
Typically, it is a good idea to set a direction for the unit once they've broken into the other unit. "Break through and turn left/right." is typical.
It is better to have a deep column penetrating the opposing unit than a wide column hitting the entire unit's forward face. Your unit needs to move through the opposing unit fast enough that the unengaged fighters on their front cannot step in to flank the sides and back of your column.

The following illustrations show units of the same size, with weapon mixes making a charge good for blue. Long arrows are spears, short arrows are polearms or greatswords. Each unit has 20 members.

Blue approaches red in a deep column, guiding on shieldman 5. The fighters on shieldman 5's side have a more difficult job staying alive as they contact, since their shields are to the inside of the column. Don't put your leftie shieldmen on 5's side though, as they prefer to be able to swing. They go on the blue shieldman 1's side.

Note that at contact, unless red has excellent command and control, Red A, B, I, J, and the second ranks behind them have no targets. Of course, the two back ranks of blue have no targets either, but they are about to get them and Red A, B, I J etc. are not.

Immediately after contact, both sides have lost some people. They are either dead, as is likely for the front line blues, or knocked down, as is likely for the front line reds.

Keep in mind that the natural reaction of all the reds is to step back. Well trained units may countercharge, but these are an exception. Almost everyone steps (or falls or bounces) back when charged. That's why charging works on almost every unit.

Once the reds step back while the blues continue forward, the momentum of the situation is all in the favor of the blues. Since all reds on both sides step back, the blues have the chance to turn (left or right-left is easier) with a very good chance of "getting away" on the outside of the turn.

In other words, as the column turns (let's say left) the right side of the blues have to run faster and try to avoid sticky engagement with the reds along the right side. The idea is to leave them alone! The direction of turn after the initial hit must be set beforehand and alll the blues need to know it. After the intital contact, the idea is to ignore all the reds on the outside of the turn, so that the majority of the blues can attack a minority of the the reds. This is the whole point of tactics in the first place! Get many of your unit to attack a few of their unit, and you win!

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The Book of Four Things

A practical guide to
SCA field tactics for fighters and commanders.

With apologies to Miamoto Musashi

In the long history of armed conflict, hundreds of generals and millions of troops have designed and executed amazing, complicated, clever plans to overcome their foes. With a powerful understanding of location, troop capabilities, weather, morale and many other variables, commanders have created plans that changed history. I am particularly amazed by Hannibal's victory at Cannae, where his outnumbered troops spent most of an afternoon slowly giving ground at the center, fighting a retreat that ultimately resulted in the Roman army being completely surrounded and destroyed. Perhaps the single most astonishing use of the classic "double envelopment" attack in all of history.

Within the context
of open field melee fighting in the SCA, such complex plans are most commonly referred to as a "Bad Idea."

Real world tactics and strategy take into account several things that mean almost nothing in an SCA context:

Starting morale--awareness that not all troops are as eager for the fight as others.

Survivor morale--how likely a unit is to break when it has begun taking casualties.

Intimidation--real world troops are often hesitant to attack because they are rightly afraid for their lives.

Now, I'll admit that this last difference does play a part in SCA combat, but not to the same degree as in the real world. I've seen many examples of hesitant melee units who were clearly afraid of losing their "lives" as they faced some other unit, or even an individual. However, the knowledge that real death or injury is very unlikely in SCA combat makes the most hesitant SCA fighter less nervous than a real world medieval or ancient infantryman.

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